Science classes should be for everyone

The University should offer more science courses geared toward humanities students.

by Ronald Dixon

As a College of Liberal Arts student, I advocate for the University of Minnesota to offer more science classes for non-science students to fulfill their biological and physical science requirements. This view stems from my experience on both ends of the difficulty spectrum.

When I first began my academic career at the University, I dreaded the fact that I had to take multiple science courses. I never excelled in science courses during high school, and I typically avoided upper-level science classes prior to college.

During my first semester at the University, I was relieved to find Exploring Our Universe, a class that, according to the course description, is geared toward non-science majors. When I took the class, however, I discovered that it was far more difficult than I anticipated.

After dropping the course, I began to research alternatives, and while discussing various options with my peers, I found some classes that not only fulfilled my science requirements, but weren’t too difficult.

For example, now I’m taking Sehoya Cotner’s Evolution and Biology of Sex course. Cotner and the other educators present the material in a way that is easily palatable for non-science students, and Cotner links the material to societal issues in the quest to make the class relevant to our everyday lives. Course topics include non-heterosexuality, diseases, gender differences and societal normativity.

I’ve also taken Geology and Cinema. Professor Justin Revenaugh teaches the rudimentary knowledge and science behind geology, while also screening action movies and pointing out the fallacious geological phenomena in the process.

The University should promote this kind of coursework to students trying to fulfill their liberal education requirements. There are too few of these courses, and even worse, many students may not know their options. 

This kind of course, however, has its critics.

Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein argues in his book “The Dumbest Generation” that relatively easy college courses are a part of the “progressive dumbification of the college curriculum,” where universities offer easy classes to attract more students to their school and to reduce dropout rates.

The central problem with Bauerlein’s argument is that he appears to be only relying upon introductory courses to forge his conclusion. These courses don’t offer a complete snapshot of a student’s credit load. Many CLA students may simply want to prioritize difficult coursework related to their degree rather than getting bogged down in degree requirements.

As a political science and communication studies major, for example, I take upper-division classes that require rigorous tests and long, in-depth essays. Am I dumb for taking an easier — or simply more interdisciplinary — science class? Should we require CLA and business students to take advanced calculus or genetics classes that do not apply to their fields?

The University should do what is in the best interest of students and plan more science classes for non-science majors. These classes fulfill the goals of an enriching liberal arts education, while also preventing unnecessary strain on students’ busy lives.